Dental Hygiene Education

You will need to complete a 2-year certificate program or associate's degree program in dental hygiene to become a dental hygienist. The program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Dental hygiene certificate and associate's degree programs will be offered by technical institutes and community colleges. Many of these programs will require up to 40 credit hours of prerequisite college courses in chemistry, sociology, psychology, English and psychology. A student may pursue a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene; this degree offers a broader education base and better career opportunities. Many universities offer a 4 year program to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene (BSDH) degree. All of these programs prepare a graduate for the clinical practice of dental hygiene in a dental office or public clinic.

Classes Required in a Dental Hygiene Education Program

Typical courses in a dental hygiene program may differ from school to school but the majority will have similar course requirements. In addition to general education classes such as English and sociology you will also have basic and dental science classes. These science classes will include the following: chemistry, anatomy, bio chemistry, microbiology, nutrition, physiology, pathology and dental pharmacology. Dental anatomy, head and neck anatomy, radiography and dental materials are some of the special dental science classes you will be required to take. These courses are taught in classrooms and also incorporated into clinical and laboratory settings. Most schools will offer a practicum program as well. This hands-on component will allow you to practice your skills as a dental hygienist under the supervision of a dental healthcare professional.

What Happens After Completing Your Education

Upon graduation you will need to be licensed by the state in which you wish to work. To do this you will need to pass both written and clinical examinations. The American Dental Association's (ADA) Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations administers the written board examination, and is accepted by all the states. The clinical board examination would be administered by your state or regional testing agency. Check with your school and/or program regarding this as many will help you prepare for the examinations.